Saturday’s WSB Summer Cup meeting had a dark cloud cast over it for South Africa’s most experienced racing television producer, Andrew Bon.
After a trying year for many self-employed folk in the racing industry, and particularly former Tellytrack contractors, the Equus Award winning journalist finds himself having effectively been declared persona non grata by Phumelela.
This was the first Summer Cup meeting that Bon was not working at in close on 30 years.
While we interviewed him prior to the WSB Summer Cup, Bon requested that this item not be published prior to the race as a distraction from the thrills and excitement of the WSB Summer Cup, the Highveld’s final big day of a rollercoaster 2020.
The accomplished horseman, who looks after off the track thoroughbreds with his wife, says that in recent months, despite having been contracted by various clients to produce promotional and personal documentaries, he has had the door shut in his face by Phumelela management, who, he contends represent ‘old guard interests’.
The last straw for Bon came when he was refused access to Turffontein after being mandated by a leading owner, who is a registered colour hold with the MTC and the NHRA, to document his Summer Cup day feature runner.
Due to constraints on movement and the risks associated with Covid-19, the international owner is unable to travel.
The Sporting Post has had sight of the formal request by the owner to Bon.
“Having accepted the sadness of missing the final leg of the Triple Tiara right near the end of our major lockdown, I now find myself the victim of what can only be termed some ghastly prejudice. They are blaming Covid restrictions. But I know beyond any reasonable doubt that the restriction placed on me is now personal,” lamented Bon, who says that there is more than one individual stills photographer on course.
Bon explains that he was a guest of leading owner Laurence Wernars on Victory Moon Stakes day, but that he was subsequently accused by a senior Phumelela Executive of having ‘abused the situation’.
“Unfortunately when we allowed you on course as a ‘guest’ of an owner on Victory Moon day, you abused the situation and you have continued to conduct yourself disingenuously in your attempts to flaunt the rules ahead of Summer Cup day. Your latest ‘invitation’ is clearly nothing more than another lurk to get on course without a genuine mandate and in contravention of the COVID protocols that still apply.”
While Phumelela’s issues with Mr Bon are one thing, the potential slight cast on the Mauritius-based owner by implying that he was conspiring with the media man, is puzzling.
A letter addressed to Phumelela by Bon’s legal counsel, leading KZN-based Attorney Bruce Armstrong, states that the veteran racing movie man is ‘simply trying to advance SA racing internationally which obviously enhances the SA racing product in these trying times’.
‘You appear to be intent on denying him the right to do so, without the authority, when the NHRA , Phumelela, and Gold Circle are subject to the provisions of PAJA and its review provisions. Please provide us with the Phumelela Board minutes in this regard’ stated Armstrong in his letter to Phumelela.
Phumelela fired back with a response from their legal counsel that suggested that Bon ‘has continuously and incessantly harassed, threatened and intimidated our Client, its representatives and/or employees’.
It states that Phumelela ‘owes no explanation as to its unfettered discretion as to whom it permits on any property it owns and/or occupies, for whatsoever reason.’
Bon is holding out hope that positive meetings this week with the management of the Racing Association, as well as a fascinating interview with Paul Peter on champion Summer Pudding’s plans, will keep him on the map and that sanity will prevail.
Efforts to contact Phumelela Executive Management for a response have not been successful.